Maili lifted his head, a feral fire burning in his eyes. All he had ever known in his short life was the metallic smell of the cages, the incessant glare of the false suns, and the iron scent of blood. His only relief and hope through his living nightmare had been the stories his mother crooned to him as he shivered at her side, stories of hunting along the shores of prey filled lakes, of sleeping beneath stars, stories of sun kissed summers and ice covered winters, stories of hope, love and of freedom. His fitful sleeps had been filled with visions that his mothers songs had brought to life, visions of a life far away from the cages, a life of danger but also of joy. Then in a twist of fate Maili and his mother, along with several of the others, had been snatched from the cages. Not by the chemical smelling white skinned devils that daily took his brethren from their steel prisons leaving the others shivering in fear together, paralysed by the screams of the dying and the stench of blood and offal. No, these were different; clumsier, silent and nervous and their skins were a patchwork of greens and browns, their scent spoke of stale sweat, smoke, fear, excitement and of anger. Fear and terror had pushed the memory of the following events from Maili’s mind; his next recollection had been of waking in the cold, autumn frost kissed ditch, of hunger and the unsuccessful hunt which had led to the terrifying encounter with the monstrous form from the rivers depths.
Now dragged from his sparse retreat, he lay in front of these two loathsome creatures, whose first words had dismissed him as bait. Emotion that he’d never before experienced coursed through his frail, undernourished body. He’d felt fear and love before, even hopelessness in his short life, but this emotion burnt inside like molten rocks; rage. Rage at being torn from his mother, rage that he’d gained his freedom only for freedom to be much worse than the cages, rage that his mother’s songs had been lies; there was nothing good about the outside, rage that the first words since beginning upon this terrifying journey addressed him as bait. “Bait?” he screamed at the two before him, “bait?” he spat out with all the rage and frustration that had built up inside of him. “I am Maili, son of Ciqala, from the Clan beside the lake, and I am no bait no I am a hunter and I will die here defying you both before you hurl my soul to that monster within the river”.
Faced with the creature's wrath in front of him Bree edged backwards, what had been a limp, almost lifeless, creature had transformed before him into a flame eyed beast and doubt filled Bree’s young mind. He glanced up at Finna for reassurance, her features took him back almost as much as the creatures rage, for the first time since his sister had been taken there was a twinkle of something nearing amusement in her eyes. “Can you walk, Maili son of Ciqala? If so then follow us, if you wish to eat that is”. With this Finna turned and fluently disappeared into the tall rushes that edged the river bank, Bree, after glancing once more at Maili scurried after her, swiftly disappearing into the rushes. Maili stood rooted to the spot, confusion and surprise now smothering the rage. As the rage left him so did what little strength it had given him and his body began to tremble. Had these two just been a vision whilst he slept?, if real how could they have disappeared so quietly without a trace to show? or if real what new dangers did they offer to him? As his doubt held him back Bree’s head once more appeared in front of him, “come on, it’s not far”. This time Bree waited until Maili took faltering steps towards him, he could see that the creature was all but finished and wondered where it had got the inner strength from to defy them moments before. Bree eased alongside the creature gently supporting its frail, bony frame. Together they followed the old water vole track through the rushes. Sometimes pushing, sometimes gently dragging, Bree gradually eased his new found charge along the narrow, semi tunneled pathway. Maili took scant notice of his surroundings or companion, too tired to care or resist anymore, he could no more than drag one foot at a time in front of each other, without the solid form of the one beside him he’d have sunk to the floor, an open invitation for any passing beast to render and feast upon, although his burnt out body would have offered no more than the scantest morsel for anything larger than a rat.
Half stumbling, half dragged the forlorn creature was coerced into a rough, high water formed, bowl under the roots of a bank side tree. His vision now swimming as consciousness drifts away he collapses to the floor, his last recollection before blackness takes over were the softly spoken words “ah food…..”